The other night – or rather, in the thin half-light just before The Beloved brought upstairs a cup of tea to place quietly by my side – I had a pale dream, flickered through with the blonde hair of dancing teacher Ruth Hirst, and the mane and tail of a white horse.

The dream-Ruth said to me, “…that’s all right Kathy, but you might like to think of making a financial contribution to help my friend raise a memorial to her horse.”

And I woke up to a thick carpet of frost on the shag-rug lawn, and birch leaves falling like golden coins in the first brightness of the sun. The sun rising in the east-south-east and peeping, peering, gazing, glorying over the top of our neighbours’ barn and roof and treetops.

I am down at Dalefield, on the edge of the English Fens, and surprised again and again by the way that gladness and shocks of energetic joy puff into my heart and ignite fire in my belly.

Even as the light levels fall and contract; even as Eurydice, Persephone are invited down into the darkness, and by their very nature are complicit in the descent (I don’t know why I wrote that, and I did).

To me, and increasingly this year, there is beauty in the Fall, in the Earthing of leaves, in the fragility and robustness of their decay, and in the wriggling of earthworms as they devour, digest, cast the leaves into the playground of the soil, in the Grounding of the (at last) wayward teenager into her hips and pelvis, in the Bellying of the Fertile, in the Birthing of the Placenta of Nourishment, in the the vitality, the snaking, of the Umbilical Cord of Attachment.

All these I dance. Into the darkness, into the light. In the shadows of the noon sun; under the stars of the northern constellations.

At the weekend I was dancing with Ruth, and with thirteen other students, at St Paul’s Church of England Primary School.

And out in the courtyard, the play-yard, I was aware of the proximity of my paternal great-grandfather, my father’s maternal grandfather, Benjamin Haynes, who appears in the 1871 census, aged 6 years, at White’s Yard, and for all I know may have been born there.

The generations of streets and houses have been razed and rebuilt many times in that part of Newtown, Cambridge.

White’s Yard no longer exists, yet I am drawn to find more about it, and so to draw closer to my Nanna Fanny’s father Ben, who became a leather-worker in Northampton, where my father Eric was born in 1910. (Eric died in Bodelwyddan, North Wales in autumn 1990. The winter following, I wrote the poem below, which I’m releasing for the first time).

And meanwhile, I move – and am moved – at St Paul’s, with my adopted and adopting tribe, my family of movers and dancers, groovers and prancers, lovers and entrancers. And I feel blessed, this November, as I approach the twenty-ninth anniversary of my father’s death.

And feel – the years notwithstanding –  close to him again. 

I was not there for you

What was it like for you,

What was it like

When you went through

The portals?

What was it like for you

When you went through?

They told me that you

Had been resting so peacefully,

Said that you passed on, away,

Like a dreamer, asleep.

But oh what a waiting and waking

Preceded that sleeping?

Alone, lonely, lying

Awake, and yet dying.

I was not there with you,

I was not there

When you went through

The portals.

I was not there with you

When you went through.

And how many minutes or hours, days, aeons of waiting

Precede now your waking from sleeping?

And will I be able to go through the portals, alone,

To awaken with you?

© Kathy McVittie 1991; 23 November 2019